Weekly Newsletters, Fall 2008-Spring 2009

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Well Educated and Undocumented


Thousands of undocumented college graduates face major hurdles while looking for employment. Most were brought here by their parents.

The Orange County Register

Carried into the United States in her mother's arms, Maria became a criminal when she was just over 2-weeks-old.

Of course, she did not know that at the time. Maria found out that she was an illegal immigrant when she began applying to colleges at 17, and told herself that if she was unable to gain U.S. citizenship by the time she was 30, she would leave the country forever.

Now 22-years-old and a graduate student at Cal State Fullerton, Maria, who is still undocumented, said that she tries not to think about her lack of citizenship and the obstacles it could create for her future.

Maria is one of thousands of students in Orange County who have been able to attend college through AB 540, a California law that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, rather than the higher fee charged to non-California residents.

The Register is withholding the full names of the undocumented students at their request and under newspaper policy that recognizes the potential for retaliation against them.

Undocumented students are ineligible for state or federal financial aid, but do get help under a policy that allows them to pay the same fees as California residents. For example, non-California residents pay an additional $20,608 a year at the University of California; up to $10,170 at the California State University: and up to $170 per unit at community colleges.

Since AB 540 was enacted in 2001, a growing number of undocumented students in California have been able to pursue college degrees. There are no statewide numbers on how many undocumented students receive help through the program or how much they receive.

While the bill has opened doors to some undocumented students, it has also created a big debate about the legality and merit of subsidizing education for illegal immigrants. And for students like Maria, who would not otherwise have been able to afford higher education, AB 540 has created a huge unanswered question: What happens after graduation?

Every year an estimated 50,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools. About five percent of those students continue on to college, according to Roberto Gonzales, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Washington, who conducted several studies about undocumented students in Southern California.

For some U.S. citizens, that is five percent too many.

"(California Lt. Gov.) John Garamendi came out last week and said California education is on a starvation diet," said Ira Mehlman, communications director for FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

"The idea that California is starving its once proud education program and at the same time turning over these very valuable seats to people who are in the country illegally flies in the face of logic," Mehlman said.

The debate is heading toward the state Supreme Court

One of the attorneys leading the fight against AB 540 is Kris Kobach, chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. Kobach represents a group of students who attended California universities and paid the much higher out-of-state tuition rate.

The students' attorneys argue that, among other things, AB 540 conflicts with federal immigration laws limiting the ability of states to provide certain benefits to undocumented immigrants, said Nicholas Espiritu, staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund.

In 2006, the case was dismissed by the Yolo County Superior Court and has wound through various appellate panels. Both sides are now petitioning the state Supreme Court to weigh in. In the meantime, the law stands in effect.

Adding to the complexity of AB 540 is that the law also benefits U.S. citizens who attended high school in California for more than three years and moved out of state after graduation. They too can qualify for in-state tuition through AB 540. In fact, advocates stress that the majority of people taking advantage of the law are U.S. citizens.

According to a 2008 annual report, all but 455 of the 1,639 students who received in-state tuition in the UC system through AB 540 were citizens. Currently, the CSU system does not track AB 540 students, and paperwork varies among community colleges. Fullerton College had 571 students enrolled through AB 540 this fall, but was unable to provide the Register the potential percentage of those students who are undocumented.

Regardless of how people feel about illegal immigration, most of these students are here to stay, argued Josh Bernstein, director of federal policy at the National Immigration Law Center, a pro-immigration think tank.

"The question is would we rather have them in an uneducated state or allow them to be educated and contribute to society?" Bernstein said.

Unlike Maria, Daniel, a 25-year-old senior computer science major at UCI, was originally a legal immigrant. He was 13 when his parents emigrated from Korea to the United States on a business visa. The visa expired and when Daniel turned 21, he became an undocumented student.

"I left Korea when I was in middle school. If I went back now I would be a 13-year-old again," Daniel said, pointing out that his Korean vocabulary and cultural understanding are stuck at an adolescent level.

Daniel said that many of his undocumented Korean friends have gotten married after graduation, hoping to gain citizenship through their spouse. A growing number are returning to Korea to teach English.

"They teach English and earn a lot of money, actually," Daniel said. "Four times as much as a Korean man who graduated from a Korean college."

A growing number of undocumented students who feel stuck in limbo find the answer to the big "what next" question in graduate school, hoping that immigration reform will be passed by the time they earn a master's degree.

"College at least offers some safety for students. I wouldn't call it sanctuary, but at least it's the one legal option they have. Those who aren't (in school) face a day-to-day life of looking over their shoulders," Gonzales said.

Being a full time college student provides no protection from deportation, said Virginia Kice, Spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"Are we specifically targeting individuals who are in this country illegally and going to school?" Kice said. "I would say any individual in the country illegally is subject to arrest and deportation. However, like any law enforcement agency, we have a finite number of resources so we have to prioritize what cases we pursue."

Maria doesn't spend much time looking over her shoulder. A petite woman whose language is peppered with California slang like "chillax," Maria believes, in an admittedly naive way, that she would not be deported because she is so obviously a "Cali girl."

"I want to break down stereotypes," Maria said. "We are here, we are getting an education and we want to make the world better too."

Facing graduation, Claudia, a 28-year-old student at Cal State Long Beach, is having a hard time figuring how to use her double major in psychology and sociology.

"There is really nothing happening with immigration reform," Claudia said. "I am trying to look for other options."

Although Claudia still has family in Mexico and has considered moving back there, right now she is considering graduate school in Spain.

"Here in the States, after college you can go for your master's, but what after that? If I move somewhere else, maybe I can find other options," she said.

Claudia considers herself to be American, even though she wasn't born here. Moving to Spain would not only mean leaving her family behind, it would mean leaving her adopted country behind too, with no guarantee of ever returning.

It is a choice that not many undocumented students make.

"We are waiting for things to change so we can use our degrees," said Matias, a recent graduate of University California Los Angeles.

Many undocumented students have attached their hopes to the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, proposed legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented high school graduates who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16.

Some – who've built an education on one bill – may not be willing to stake their future on another bill.

"I am not turning any younger. I want things. I want a job. I want a house. All I have right now is my clothes and my car," Claudia said. "I hope the Dream Act passes, but I don't want to depend on it all my life."

Contact the writer: Contact the writer at jterrell@ocregister.com or 714-796-7722

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Last meeting of the semester! Bring snacks!

Hello FORCErs!

This week (tomorrow) we will be having our last meeting of the semester. We'll be getting together just to hang out and make plans for the next semester and/or winter break.

Hope to see you all there!

For equality,

Monday, December 1, 2008

Newsletter 12/01/08

F.O.R.C.E. Newsletter December 1, 2008

F.O.R.C.E. Meetings
Mondays, 1-2pm in the Women’s Resource Center (WRC)

Ongoing Events…

“The Art of War: American Posters from WWI and WWII” Art Exhibit
Sep 5 – Jan 26, 2009
Mondays (noon–6pm), Wednesdays–Thursdays (noon–6pm), Fridays (noon–9pm), Saturdays–Sundays (noon–6pm)
Norton Simon Museum (411 W Colorado Blvd), 626.449.6840
When searching for a means of drumming up support for World War I, officials in Washington didn't have to look much further than two-dimensional art. Upon being asked to lend a hand to the war effort, Society of Illustrators President Charles Dana Gibson and his fellow artists began pumping out graphic masterpieces dripping with propaganda. The Art of War: American Posters from World War I and World War II is a timely exhibit culled from the Norton Simon's own collection. Works include Norman Rockwell's picture-perfect portrayal of the American family gathering and James Montgomery Flagg's iconic I Want You for the U.S. Army, which brought us the enduring image of the white-bearded Uncle Sam.

“War as a Way of Life” Art Exhibit
Sep 29 – Dec 19 Mondays–Fridays (11am–5:30pm)
18th Street Arts Center (1639 18th St), 310.453.3711
18th Street wraps up its yearlong, four-part examination of sociopolitical issues with War as a Way of Life. The exhibit includes the work of 16 artists who demonstrate how war, in all its forms — overseas, at home, in our minds — has become an integral part of the way we live. The unveiling of the show coincides with Art Night, a quarterly extravaganza featuring live music, dancing, and, of course, striking visual art. Intriguingly, the gallery doubles as a polling location on November 4. With images of protest and devastation on display, expect a controversial meeting of politics and art.

In December…

Wednesday, December 3
Die In
To go along with our international women’s issues theme for November, we will be hosting a “Die In.” More details will be announced in the coming weeks. The event will be a way to raise awareness to the number of women that are dying due to various factors and atrocities around the world. We will be wearing all black and speaking about these issues, on the friendship walk on upper campus.
Facebook event page: here.

December 4-6
Black Consciousness Conference
December 4: Talent Showcase, 6pm
December 5: Lecture Series I featuring Michaela Angela Davis, 12-9pm
December 6: Lecture Series II featuring Merira Kwesi, 12-9pm
Flier: here.

Saturday, December 6
Community Meeting Against Discrimination and Police Violence
Flier: here.

December 21
Eid-ul-Adha EID Carnival (Muslim Student Association CSULB)
Flier: here and here.

Die-In this Wednesday!

Hi all,

Hope you're all having a great weekend. As you know, F.O.R.C.E. will be putting on a Die-In this Wednesday, Dec. 3 from 11-2 on the grass near the Friendship Walk, across from the University Bookstore. The purpose of the Die-In is to raise awareness about the Global Gag Rule by dressing in black, laying down and "playing dead" in order to represent the hundreds of thousands of women that have died as a result of this policy. We will also be distributing factsheets about the Global Gag Rule, as well as ways to help.

We want to make sure this event gets a lot of attention. Tell all your friends about it, mention it to your classmates, and don't forget to WEAR BLACK ON WEDNESDAY!

We will need a couple people to help set up and take down the event; we will have more specific information at the F.O.R.C.E. meeting on Monday at 1pm. What I also need, though, is one or two people willing to e-mail CSULB professors about the event (we should have done this earlier, but better late than never), asking them to mention this event to their classes if they can, and perhaps suggest extra credit. Departments of which this topic is most relevant are probably the Political Science and Women's Studies Departments, but feel free to contact more. We need someone to just go to the department websites, copy and paste the e-mail addresses of the professors, and send out a mass e-mail.

You can take information from forceclub.blogspot.com, the Die-In event
page on Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=41223147753&ref=mf, or go to http://www.globalgagrule.org/ for more information.

Let me know if you have time to do this, or if you have any other questions about this event.


-Justine / F.O.R.C.E.
(760) 670-5483